Glenn Greenwald (born March 6, 1967) is an American columnist, blogger, and author. He was a columnist for Guardian US from August 2012 to October 2013. He was a columnist for Salon.com from 2007 to 2012, and an occasional contributor to The Guardian. Greenwald worked as a constitutional and civil rights litigator. At Salon he contributed as a columnist and blogger, focusing on political and legal topics. He has also contributed to other newspapers and political news magazines, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The American Conservative, The National Interest, and In These Times.
The Forex market is dead and dying, in parallel with the US economy; which is fitting, considering the US is still the world reserve currency.
Significant harbingers that have changed the Forex market forever:
- Dodd Frank has killed/consolidated retail Forex in the US (significant because the US is the world reserve currency), leaving less than 10 retail Forex brokers in the US, compared to several hundred in jurisdictions such as the UK, Cyprus, Australia, and a growing retail Forex presence in China. New Forex products, such as Binary Options, are being offered exclusively to a non-US customer base.
- Still, only one major US bank, Ever Bank, offers multi-currency deposits.
- Forex banks are under investigation for 'manipulating' the Forex market (which is impossible). Still, Forex traders are getting fired or put 'on leave' pending investigation. Meanwhile, Forex volatility is extremely low.
- China stepping up it's Forex operations internationally, but more important, even Robert Gates is concerned about the growing Chinese Military (even though they can't manufacture jet engines). And as people who understand the realities of global power, the US Dollar is backed by bombs, not by the world's endless love of the United States, and our freedoms.
- Dwindling support of the Fiat currency system, exemplified by Bitcoin and Bitcoin clones, to attemps by China to hoard Gold, and even Germany making (at least publicly) a typically German attempt to repatriate their Gold.
- Douche Bank exits Gold price fixing cartel, not directly connected to Forex, however DB is the largest volume bank in Forex trading, and Gold one of the only 'metal currencies' as an alternative to Fiat Forex, or at least the most popular.
For those readers who believe this is all part of a 'conspiracy' to issue in a one world currency, read the following Kissinger transcript post Nixon shock (in part):
Secretary Kissinger: But if they ask what they’re doing—let me just say economics is not my forte. But my understanding of this proposal would be that they—by opening it up to other countries, they’re in effect putting gold back into the system at a higher price.Mr. Enders: Correct.Secretary Kissinger: Now, that’s what we have consistently opposed.Mr. Enders: Yes, we have. You have convertibility if they—Secretary Kissinger: Yes.Mr. Enders: Both parties have to agree to this. But it slides towards and would result, within two or three years, in putting gold back into the centerpiece of the system—one. Two—at a much higher price. Three—at a price that could be determined by a few central bankers in deals among themselves.So, in effect, I think what you’ve got here is you’ve got a small group of bankers getting together to obtain a money printing machine for themselves. They would determine the value of their reserves in a very small group.There are two things wrong with this.Secretary Kissinger: And we would be on the outside.Mr. Enders: We could join this too, but there are only very few countries in the world that hold large amounts of gold—United States and Continentals being most of them. The LDC’s and most of the other countries—to include Japan—have relatively small amounts of gold. So it would be highly inflationary, on the one hand—and, on the other hand, a very inequitable means of increasing reserves.Secretary Kissinger: Why did the Germans agree to it?Mr. Enders: The Germans agreed to it, we’ve been told, on the basis that it would be discussed with the United States—conditional on United States approval.
Secretary Kissinger: They would be penalized for having held dollars.
These are not very sophistocated guys, according to the transcript (Conspiracy Theorists are encouraged to read the FULL transcript), but it does give credibility to the rumor that Arthur Laffer explained economic policy to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in a bar by drawing a half circle on a napkin.
So, how does the Death of Forex have an impact on my portoflio? How is this information valuable to me, and not just for Fortune Cookies?
1. If you are considering participating in Forex, or are already doing so, and you are a US Citizen or live in the US, consider setting up something outside of US, legally.
2. If you are a portfolio manager, hedge yourself from a potential collapse of your domestic currency. There are plenty of high quality articles on Zero Hedge that outline this, just remember that if the US Dollar collapses it may be orchestrated with the ECB, now being run by an American trained MIT alumni, so if the USD goes down it doesn't mean exactly that the EUR will go up.
3. If you are investing internationally, be sure to hedge your Forex position with forwards, options, and avoid huge bank spreads that can be as high as 14% of your total transaction (up to 700 pips per side).
4. Unless you are forced by circumstance, or are extremely intelligent, experienced, and sophistocated, DO NOT INVEST IN FOREX, especially with 3rd party 'managers' that boast consistent usually unrealistic returns.
5. Stay out of cash as much as possible, a big Forex market event can create hyperinflation, or even black market rates as we've seen in Argentina and India, or make the use of currencies in certain venues difficult or prohibited.
A final thought, about the biggest players in the world's largest market by volume. Germany is the economic backbone of the Eurozone and thus the Euro. Euro is currently the only alternative to the US Dollar, and US Bond market. Here's a passage about the banking culture in Germany, with their most important FX banks:
The Commerzbank Tower is 53 stories high and unusually shaped: it looks like a giant throne. The top of the building, the arms of the throne, looks more decorative than useful. The interesting thing, said a friend, who visited often, was a room at the top, peering down over Frankfurt. It was a men’s bathroom. Commerzbank executives had taken him up to the top to show him how, in full view of the world below, he could urinate on Deutsche Bank. And if he sat in the stall with the door open …
Just a thought, considering the current cases against the FX trading banks, maybe it would have been better, in hindsight, to instead invest in some dynamic model for FX. But every organization reaches it's ultimate level of optimization, in the case of this Forex environment, it involves the excretion of one of the few products we can all agree that Germany does well (beer), and is combined with the alleged manipulation (cheating) of FX dealers. It paints a sad and surreal death to the modern Forex market.
GIH: A new report shows that the 85 of the world's richest people own the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the population, or several billion people. Of course, this is wealth that is accounted for, it may be a much wider gap considering the shadow banking system, private offshore anonymous trusts, that the rich have access to and the poor do not.
The 85 richest people on Earth have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the population, according to a new report that highlights growing income inequality as political and business leaders gather for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Those wealthy individuals are a small part of the richest 1% of the population, which combined owns about 46% of global wealth, according to the report from British humanitarian group Oxfam International.
The study found the richest 1% had $110 trillion in wealth -- 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population.
That bottom half of the population owned about $1.7 trillion, or about 0.7% of the world's wealth. That's the same amount as owned by the 85 richest people, the report said.
The findings undermine democracy and make it more difficult to fight poverty, the report said.
“It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all sit comfortably in a single train carriage," said Winnie Byanyima, the group's executive director.
"Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table," she said.
In a report last week, the World Economic Forum said widening income inequality was the risk most likely to cause serious damage in the next decade.
President Obama recently called the expanding gap between rich and poor a bigger threat to the U.S. economy than the budget deficit.
The United States has led a worldwide growth in wealth concentration, according to the Oxfam report, titled "Working for the Few."
The percentage of income held by the richest 1% in the U.S. has grown by nearly 150% since 1980. That small elite has received 95% of wealth created since 2009, after the financial crisis, while the bottom 90% of Americans have become poorer, Oxfam said.
The share of wealth owned by the richest 1% also expanded in all but two of the 26 nations tracked by researchers in the World Top Incomes Database.
That's caused a "massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people," Oxfam said.
Falling taxes for the rich and increased use of tax havens have helped widen income inequality, Oxfam said.
The group called on World Economic Forum participants, which include some of the wealthiest and most influential corporate executives, to take steps to reverse the trend.
Among other things, Oxfam wants them to support progressive taxation, pledge not to dodge taxes, pay a living wage to workers at their companies and push governments "to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection" for their citizens.
The below chart compares number of lines of code of various projects, from Unix, to the iPhone, and finally, healthcare.gov. With an enormous amount of code, and likely little or no documentation, it would be impossible to 'fix' the site, or even make a blueprint of how it is supposed to work. In any event, the below data visualization presents the facts based on number of lines of code, as it may be difficult for the average person to imagine.
Click to enlarge
For more data visualization see:
GIH: It appears that the so called "Gold Conspiracy" that Gold is being sold secretly and in some cases being replaced by tungsten, has been going on for years. According to the following internal central bank memo, Gold delivered to the Bundesbank was not received as "Good Delivery" - also, Germany's recent project to repatriate their own Gold which they rightfully own (according to records) has yielded an amazingly low 5 tons from the NY Fed, out of their stated target of 674 tons.
On December 24, we posted an update on Germany's gold repatriation process: a year after the Bundesbank announced its stunning decision, driven by Zero Hedge revelations, to repatriate 674 tons of gold from the New York Fed and the French Central Bank, it had managed to transfer a paltry 37 tons. This amount represents just 5% of the stated target, and was well below the 84 tons that the Bundesbank would need to transport each year to collect the 674 tons ratably over the 8 year interval between 2013 and 2020. The release of these numbers promptly angered Germans, and led to the rise of numerous allegations that the reason why the transfer is taking so long is that the gold simply is not in the possession of the offshore custodians, having been leased, or worse, sold without any formal or informal announcement. However, what will certainly not help mute "conspiracy theorists" is today's update from today's edition of Die Welt, in which we learn that only a tiny 5 tons of gold were sent from the NY Fed. The rest came from Paris.
As Welt states, "Konnten die Amerikaner nicht mehr liefern, weil sie die bei der Federal Reserve of New York eingelagerten gut 1500 Tonnen längst verscherbelt haben?" Or, in English, did the US sell Germany's gold? Maybe. The official explanation was as follows: "The Bundesbank explained [the low amount of US gold] by saying that the transports from Paris are simpler and therefore were able to start quickly." Additionally, the Bundesbank had the "support" of the BIS "which has organized more gold shifts already for other central banks and has appropriate experience - only after months of preparation and safety could transports start with truck and plane." That would be the same BIS that in 2011 lent out a record 632 tons of gold...
Going back to the main explanation, we wonder: how exactly is a gold transport "simpler" because it originates in Paris and not in New York? Or does the NY Fed gold travel by car along the bottom of the Atlantic, and is French gold transported by a Vespa scooter out of the country?
Supposedly, there was another reason: "The bullion stored in Paris already has the elongated shape with beveled edges of the "London Good Delivery" standard. The bars in the basement of the Fed on the other hand have a previously common form. They will need to be remelted [to LGD standard]. And the capacity of smelters are just limited."
So... New York Fed-held gold is not London Good Delivery, and there is a bottleneck in remelting capacity? You don't say...
Furthermore, Welt goes on to "debunk" various "conspiracy websites" that the reason why the gold is being melted is not to cover up some shortage (and to scrap serial numbers), but that the gold is exactly the same gold as before. Finally, to silences all skeptics, the Bundesbank says that "there is no reason for complaint - the weight and purity of the gold bars were consistent with the books match." In conclusion, Welt reports that in 2014 "larger transport volumes" can be expected from New York: between 30 and 50 tons.
Here we would be remiss to not point out that the reason why the German people and the Bundesbank have every reason to be skeptical is that as Zero Hedge reported exclusively in November 2012, before the Buba's shocking repatriation announcement and was the reason for the escalation in lack of faith between central banks, it was the Fed and the Bank of England who in 1968 knowingly sent Germany "bad delivery" gold. Which is why we have a feeling that the pace of gold transportation will certainly not accelerate until such time as the German people much more vocally demand an immediate transit of all their gold held at the New York Fed: after all, it's there right - surely the Bundesbank can be trusted to melt the gold (if any exists of course) into London Good Delivery or whatever format it wants.
Unless of course, the gold isn't there...
Bank Of England To The Fed: "No Indication Should, Of Course, Be Given To The Bundesbank..."
Over the past several years, the German people, for a variety of justified reasons, have expressed a pressing desire to have their central bank perform a test, verification, validation or any other assay, of the official German gold inventory, which at 3,395 tonnes is the second highest in the world, second only to the US. We have italicized the word official because this representation is merely on paper: the problem arises because no member of the general population, or even elected individuals, have been given access to observe this gold. The problem is exacerbated when one considers that a majority of the German gold is held offshore, primarily in the vaults of the New York Fed, and at the Bank of England - the two historic centers of central banking activity in the post World War 2 world.
Recently, the topic of German gold resurfaced following the disclosure that early on in the Eurozone creation process, the Bundesbank secretly withdrew two-thirds of its gold, or 940 tons, from London in 2000, leaving just 500 tons with the Bank of England. As we made it very clear, what was most odd about this event, is that the Bundesbank did something it had every right to do fully in the open: i.e., repatriate what belongs to it for any number of its own reasons - after all the German central bank is only accountable to its people (or so the myth goes), in deep secrecy. The question was why it opted for this stealthy transfer.
This immediately prompted rampant speculation within various media outlets, the most fanciful of which, of course, being that the Bundesbank never had any gold to begin with and has been masking the absence all along. The problem with such speculation is that, while it may be 100% correct and accurate, there has been not a shred of hard evidence to prove it. As a result, it is merely relegated to the echo chamber periphery of "serious media" whose inhabitants are already by and large convinced that all gold in the world is tungsten, lack of actual evidence to validate such a claim be damned (just like a chart of gold spiking or plungingis not evidence that a central bank signed the trade ticket, ordering said move), and in the process delegitimizing any fact-based investigations that attempt to debunk, using hard evidence, the traditional central banker narrative that the gold is there and accounted for.
And hard evidence, or better yet a paper trail of inconsistencies, is absolutely paramountwhen juxtaposing the two most powerful forces of our times: i) the central banking-led status quo (which is de facto the banker-led oligarchy whose primary purpose in the past several centuries has been to accumulate as much as possible of the hard asset-based fruits of people's labor, who toil in exchange for "money" created out of thin air - a process which could be described as not quite voluntary slavery, but the phrase would certainly suffice), and ii) "everyone else", especially when "everyone else" still believes in the supremacy of democratic forces, accountability, and an impartial legal system (three pillars of modern society which over the past 4 years we have experienced time and again have been nothing but mirages). Because without hard evidence, not only is the case of the people against central bankersnon-existent, even if conducted in a kangaroo court co-opted by the banker-controlled status quo, it becomes laughable with every iteration of progressively more unsubstantiated accusations against the central banking cartels.
Finally, when it comes to cold, hard facts, which expose central banks in misdeed, even the great central banks have to be silent silent, as otherwise the overt perversion of justice will blow up the mirage that modern society lives in a democratic, laws-based world will be torn upside down.
And while others engage in click-baiting using grotesque hypotheses of grandure without any actual investigation, reporting or error and proof-checking to build up hype and speculation, which promptly fizzles and in the process desensitizes the general public and those actually undecided and/or on the fences about what truly goes on behind the scenes, Zero Hedge travelled (metaphorically) in space - to London, or specifically the Bank of England Archives - and in time, to May 1968 to be precise.
While there we dug up a certain memo, coded C43/323 in the BOE archives, official title "GOLD AND FOREIGN EXCHANGE OFFICE FILE: FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF NEW YORK (FRBNY) - MISCELLANEOUS", dated May 31, 1968, written by a certain Mr. Robeson addressed to theBOE's Roy Bridge as well as its Chief Cashier, and whose ultimate recipient is Charles Coombs who at the time was the manager of the open market account at the Fed, responsible for Fed operations in the gold and FX markets.
This memo, more than any of the other spurious and speculative accusation about Buba's golden hoard, should disturb German citizens, and of course the Bundesbank (assuming it was not already aware of its contents), as the memo lays out, without any shadow of doubt, that the BOE and the Fed, effectively conspired to feed the Bundesbank due gold bars that were of substantially subpar quality on at least one occasion in the period during the Bretton-Woods semi-gold standard (which ended with Nixon in August 1971).
At least two central banks have conspired on at least one occasion to provide the Bundesbank with what both banks knew was "bad delivery" gold - the convertible reserve currency under the Bretton Woods system, or in other words, to defraud - amounting to 172 bars. The "bad delivery" occured even as official gold refiners had warned that the quality of gold emanating from the US Assay Office was consistently below standard, and which both the BOE and the Fed were aware of. Instead of addressing the issue of declining gold quality and purity, the banks merely covered up the refiners' complaints
It is this that the Bundesbank, the German government, and the German people should be focusing on. If in the process this means completely ridiculing the Buba's "she doth protest too much" defense strategy that what is happening in the media is a "phantom debate" as perAndreas Dobret's recent words, so be it. In fact, one may be well advised to ignore anything Buba has said on this matter, because in attempting to hyperbolize the matter out of irrelevancy, the Buba is now cornered and will have no choice now but to explain just what the true gold content of the gold even in its possession is, let alone that which is allocated to the Buba account 50 feet below sea level, underneath the infamous building on Liberty 33.
Full May 1968 memo from the BOE to the NY Fed: highlights ours:
THE CHIEF CASHIER
U.S. Assay Office Gold Bars
1. We have from time to time had occasion to draw the Americans’ attention of the poor standards of finish of U.S. Assay Office bars. In addition in 1961 we passed on to them comments from Johnson Matthey to the effect thatspectrographic examination did not support the claimed assay on one bar they had so tested (although they would not by normal processes have challenged the assay) and that impurities in the bar included iron which caused some material to be retained on the sides of crucible after pouring.
2. Recently, Johnson Matthey have put 172 “bad delivery” U.S. Assay Office bars into good delivery form for account of the Deutsche Bundesbank. These bars formed part of recent shipments by the Federal Reserve Bank to provide gold in London in repayment of swaps with the Bundesbank. The out-turn of the re-melting showed a loss in fine ounces terms four times greater than the gross weight loss. Asked to comment Johnson Matthey have indicated verbally that:-
(a) the mixing of “melt” bars of differing assays in one “pot” could produce a result which might be a contributing factor to a heavier loss in fine weight but they did not think this would be substantial ;
(b) a variation of .0001 in assay between different assayers is an extremely common phenomenon;
(c) over a long period of years they had had experience of unsatisfactory U.S. assays
3. It is not, however, possible to say that the U.S. assays were at fault because Johnson Matthey did not test any of the individual bars before putting them into the pot.
4. The Federal Reserve Bank have informed the Bundesbank that adjustments for differences in weight and refining charges will be reimbursed by the U.S.Treasury.
5. No indication should, of course, be given to the Bundesbank, or any other central bank holder of U.S. bars, as to the refiner’s views on them. The peculiarity of the out-turn will be known to the Bundesbank: it has so far occasioned no comment.
6. We should draw the attention of the Federal to the discrepancy in this (and any similar subsequent such) result and add simply that the refiners have made no formal comment but have indicate that, although very small differences in assay are not uncommon, their experience with U.S. Assay Office bars has not been satisfactory.
7. We hold 3,909 U.S. Assay Office bars for H.M.T. in London (in addition to the New York holding of 8,630 bars). After the London gold market was reopened in 1954 we test assayed the bars of certain assayers to ensure that pre-war standards were being maintained. It might be premature to set up arrangements now for sample test assays of U.S. Assay Office bars but if it appeared likely that the present discontent of the refiners might crystalise into formal complain we should certainly need to do this. In the meantime I would recommend no further action.
31st May 1968
To summarize: Bank of England discovers discrepancies with US Assay Office gold bars, notifies the NY Fed that its gold bars have major "bad delivery" issues, but, and this is the punchline, on this occasion, we'll keep it quiet, because the Bundesbank got these bars. This is merely one documented assay occasion: one can imagine that of the hundreds of thousands of gold bars in official circulation, the "good delivery" quality of bars outside of the US, and perhaps BOE, official holdings has progressively declined over the decades of Bretton Woods. One can also only imagine what has happened to all those "good delivery" bars currently held by the Fed as custodian at the NY Fed. Literally: imagine. Because there is no way to check what the real gold consistency of these gold bars is, and whether the refiners found ongoing future inconsistencies with "good delivery" standards of bars handed off to other "non-core" central banks. And, yes, without further evidence the above is merely speculation.
As to the remaining relevant facts: the US ran out of good delivery gold in March 1968 and only had coin bars remaining. Which is why it closed the gold pool and went to a two-tier price system. The Bundesbank went on to cover some of the outstanding gold debts of the Fed to the gold pool. Subsequently, the US then did several deals with the BOC to get a substantial amount of gold to pay back the Bundesbank which was sent over to England from March until June 1968. One can, again, only speculate on the quality of said gold. The Fed then created unsettled accounts to account for these transfers between itself and the Buba.
In light of the above facts and evidence, one can see why the Buba is doing all in its power to avoid the spotlight being shone on the purity of its gold inventory: after all the last thing the German central banks would want is someone to go through the publicly available archived literature, to put two and two together, and figure out that it does not take one massive "rehypothecation" (see "to Corzine") event for German gold credibility to be impaired: all it takes is death from a thousand micro dilutions over the decades to get the same end result. Because chipping away one ounce here, one ounce there for years and years and years,ultimately adds up to a lot.
We eagerly look forward to the Buba's next iteration of self-defense. We can only hope that this one does not include a reference to a "phantom debate", to "East German terrorist Simon Gruber" or to Goldfinger, as it will merely further destroy any remaining credibility the Bundesbank may have left in this, or any other, matter.
GIH: China's economy has been overheating, and with a growing financial sector. Some indications point to similarities between events in China now and the US in 2007. A slowdown or credit crisis in China would also impact Australia, the region, and ultimately the entire world economy.
Bank of America Is Actively Preparing For The Chinese January 31 Trust Default
And as we previously noted, 
...borrowers are facing rising pressures for loan repayments in an environment of overcapacity and unprofitable investments. Unable to generate cash to service their loans, they have to turn to the shadow-banking sector for credit and avoid default. The result is an explosive growth of the size of the shadow-banking sector (now conservatively estimated to account for 20-30 percent of GDP).
Understandably, the PBOC does not look upon the shadow banking sector favorably. Since shadow-banking sector gets its short-term liquidity mainly through interbanking loans, the PBOC thought that it could put a painful squeeze on this sector through reducing liquidity. Apparently, the PBOC underestimated the effects of its measure. Largely because Chinese borrowers tend to cross-guarantee each other’s debt, squeezing even a relatively small number of borrowers could produce a cascade of default. The reaction in the credit market was thus almost instant and frightening. Borrowers facing imminent default are willing to borrow at any rate while banks with money are unwilling to loan it out no matter how attractive the terms are.
Should this situation continue, China’s real economy would suffer a nasty shock. Chain default would produce a paralyzing effect on economic activities even though there is no run on the banks. Clearly, this is not a prospect the CCP’s top leadership relishes.
So the PBOC's efforts are merely exacerbating the situation for the worst companies... and as BofAML notes below, this is a major problem...
The 3bn CNY Beast Knocking
via BofAML's Bin Gao
CNY stands for the currency, and also a beast
CNY represents China’s official currency. It also stands for Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday for the country and the occasion for family reunions and celebration. But less familiar for many, however, the Year (?) itself actually stood for a beast which comes out every 365 days and eats everything along the way from bugs to humans. The holiday tradition started as a way for people to fend off the beast by getting together and lighting up the firecrackers.
At the same time, custom dictated that people also to paid their due to avoid becoming the beast’s target. In particular, it has been a tradition to settle all debt before the New Year. From the perspective of such folk culture, the trust product Credit Equals Gold #1, referred as CEQ1 hereafter, by China Credit Trust planned poorly for having the maturing date on the New Year, leaving a 3bn CNY beast running wild.
High probability for the trust product to default
Though the term default is used quite frequently, there are actually confusions on what constitutes a default in this case when talking to investors and especially onshore investment professionals. To simplify the issue, we define a default as failing to pay the promised contractual amount on time.
The product, CEQ1, is straightforward. It is CNY3.03bn financing with senior tranches of CNY3bn and junior tranche of CNY30mn. In principle, the senior tranches are also equity investment, but the junior tranche holder pledged assets for repurchasing senior investment at a premium. The promised rate was indexed to PBoC’s deposit rate with a floor for three classes of senior tranches at 9.5%, 10% and 11%, paid annually (detailed structure is illustrated below).
In a sense, the product is in technical default already. The last coupon payment in December, with nearly all the money (CNY80mn) left in the trust account, came in at only 2.7%, falling far short of the promised yield. The bigger trouble is the CNY3bn principal payment, along with the delinquent coupon, on 31 January.
We see high probability of default on 31 January
Political or economic consideration: ultimately, given the government’s strong grip on financial institutions, default may be a political decision as much as an economic decision. From that perspective, CEQ1 would be a good candidate for default. The minimum investment in CEQ1 is CNY3mn, much more than the typical amount required for other trust investment and 75 times of per capita GDP in China. If defaults were to be used to send a warning signal to shadow banking investors, this group of rich investors may have been a good target because the government does not need to worry too much of them demonstrating in front of government offices.
Timing: there is never a good timing for deleverage because of risks involved. But the current job market situation provides a solid buffer should defaults and subsequent credit contraction slow down the economy growth. The government planned 9mn jobs last year; instead it has created more than 12mn by November. So the system could withstand a potential shock.
Financial capability: China Credit Trust has a bit over CNY10bn net assets, which some analysts cite as evidence of the trust company’s capability to fully redeem the product first and recover from the collateral asset later. However, the assets might not be liquid enough, so the net asset is not the best measure. Based on its 2012 annual report, the company has liquid asset of CNY3bn and short-term liability of CNY1.35bn, leaving liquid accessible fund of CNY1.65bn at most. ICBC for certain has much deeper pocket, but it has declared that it won’t be taking major responsibility.
Career concern: To certain extent, the timing was unfavorable for another reason, the ongoing anti-corruption campaign. It is reported that there are around 700 investors involved. On CNY3bn senior tranche investment, it averages CNY4.3mn per investor. We do not know the exact identity but with CNY3mn entry point, we know no one is a small-scale investor. Legally unjustified, if either China Credit Trust or ICBC decided to pay 100% with their capital, the decision maker would have to ensure that he does not have any business deals with any of the 700. Because if he does, his career or even his freedom could be in jeopardy in the current environment of ongoing anti-corruption campaign and strict scrutiny of shady deals/personal favors.
Questionable asset quality and uncertain contingent claim: There are cases in the past of near default, but most of them involved collateral of real estate assets, which have at least appreciated over the years. The appreciation of collateral assets makes it easier for the third party to step in by paying back investors and taking over the collateral assets. This particular product involves coal-mining assets whose value has been decreasing over the last couple of years. Moreover, there have been multiple claimants on these assets, as exemplified by the sale of Yangjiagu coal mine. Although the mine was 51% pledged through two levels of ownership structure, only 20% of the sales proceed accrued to trust investors (Exhibit 1 above). Such a low percentage would be a deterrence and concern to whoever contemplating a takeover of the collateral assets.
Other cases less relevant: In the past, one way to deal with the issue was for banks to lend to shareholders of the existing collateral asset owners for them to payback investors, with explicit or implicit local government guarantees. Shangdong Hailong’s potential default on bond was avoided this way last year. However, in the current case, the owner has been arrested for illegal fund raising, making the past precedence less applicable.
Putting all the above reasons together, we think there is a high probability for CEQ1 to default on 31 January, i.e. no full redemption of principal and backcoupon on the day.
Immediate impact would be for China rates curve to flatten
The case has been widely covered in the media. However, many still believe one way or the other the involved parties will find a last minute solution to fully redeem the maturing debt. So if the trust is not paid, we believe it will be a big shock to the market.
China rates market reaction, however, might not be straightforward. On the one hand, default would likely lead to risk-averse behavior, arguing for lower rates. On the other hand, market players would likely hoard cash in such an event, leading to tighter liquidity condition and pushing money rates higher.
We think that both movements are likely to ensue initially, meaning higher repo/SHIBOR rates and lower CGB yield if default were to realize. We suggest positioning likewise by paying 1y IRS and long 5y CGB. On the swap curve itself, we think the immediate reflection will be a bear flattening move.
Interestingly, an informal survey conducted on WeChat among finance professionals suggests the same kind of repo rate reaction (Chart 1). We think this survey is important because we believe these investment professionals will likely behave accordingly because the default event is not priced in and hard to hedge a priori.
Trust company can’t have their cake and eat it too
Of course, we can’t rule out that the involved parties do find a solution to avoid default. However, with a case as clear cut to us as this one favoring default, we believe such outcome would send a strong signal to investors that the best investment is to buy the worst credit.
Thus, we believe the near term market reaction with no default would be for the AA credit to shine brightly since this segment has been under pressure for quite some time. Trust investment would be met with enthusiasm and trust assets would likely expand further.
However, we see a fundamental problem in the industry; the leverage ratio has gone to a level which requires investors and trust companies to answer some serious questions: will trust company stand back behind every trust investment or will trust company have to default on some or potentially many of them? We believe the question needs an answer because the trust companies can’t have their cake and eat it too.
For the industry, the AUM/equity ratio has nearly doubled from 23 to 43 in less than three years during the period of 4Q2010 to 3Q2013 (Chart 2). Some in the industry has argued that one should only count the collective trusts since other trusts are originated by non-trust players like banks. Thus, trust companies have no responsibility for paying investors other than collective trusts.
We see two problems.
Even if we accept the trust companies’ argument, it is still questionable whether trust companies would be able to pay even a reasonable amount of default. The growth of leverage on collective trusts was much more aggressive. Collective trust AUM/equity ratio was 2.7 in 1Q2010 and 4.7 in 4Q2010 (Chart 2). It rose to 10 by 3Q2013, more than doubled in less than three years and more than tripled in less than four years. Along the way, the average provision has dropped from 84bp to 34bp when measured against collective AUM.
As the case of CEQ1 illustrates, as long as full redemption is on the table, no involved party could walk away totally clean. CEQ1 is a case of collective trust, but the ICBC still faces the pressure to pay. If the bank is being pressured to pay in the case of collective trust default, trust companies will likely be pressured to pay as well should some non-collective trusts get into trouble. If trust companies are on the line for the total AUM, their financial condition is even shakier, with average provision covering barely 7bp of total AUM as of 3Q2013.
On longer term market trend
Based on the analysis in the above section, we see a possibility for trust companies to have to let some trust products default with such high leverage and so few provisions. This is especially likely the case given that there will be more and more trust redemption this year and next year as a result of the fast expansion of this industry over the last couple of years and short duration of such products.
The heaviest redemption in collective trusts this year will arrive in the 2Q (Chart 3). Given that the financial system is stretched thin and there were more cases of near defaults on smaller amount of redemption last year (three cases in December alone), we believe some form of default is almost inevitable in the near term.
The potential first default, even if it’s not CEQ1 on 31 JANUARY, would be important based on the experience of what happened to the US and Europe; the market has tended to underestimate the initial event. Over the last year, China appeared to be mirroring what happened in the US during 2007, the spike of money rate (much higher repo/SHIBOR), the steepening of money curve (14d money much more expensive than overnight and 7d), and small accidents here and there (junior tranches of a few wealth management products offered by Haitong Securities losing more than 60%, a few small trusts and now CEQ1’s redemption difficulty).
Theoretically, China’s risk is best expressed using a China related instrument, but we also think the more liquid expression of China goes through the south pacific. The following points list our longer views on China and Australia rates.
- We have liked using Australia rates lower as a way to express our China concern and we continue recommending doing so as a theme.
- We recommend long CGB and underweight credit product. The risk for such positioning in the near term is no CEQ1 default. But we believe any pain suffered due to overt market manipulation to avoid default will be short lived since it has become much harder to keep the debt-heavy system in balance and the credit spread is bound to widen.
- After a brief flattening on CEQ1 default, we see swap curve steepening as being more likely on more default threatening growth leading to easy monetary policy and more issuance going to the bond market.
- We look for higher CCS rates due to the fact that the currency forward will more likely start expressing the risk.
"There is an unresolved self-contradiction in China’s current policies: restarting the furnaces also reignites exponential debt growth, which cannot be sustained for much longer than a couple of years."
The "eerie resemblances" - as Soros previously noted - to the US in 2008 have profound consequences for China and the world  - nowhere is that more dangerously exposed (just as in the US) than in the Chinese shadow banking sector.
Gold has long been one of the many assets used by central banks. They certainly were one of the largest market participants, if not the largest single buyer and seller of Gold. Now, Deutsche Bank is exiting the fixing desk, China has an insatiable demand for Gold, and there is talk of an investigation of price manipulation. For years there's been rumors that large ibanks such as JPMorgan have used naked futures contracts to keep the price low. One theory supposed that if a certain quantity of futures contracts were not rolled over, the exchange would default on the contract. As we will see based on the below evidence, whatever the outcome, manipulation of the Gold market will be difficult or impossible for central banks in 2014.
With Deutsche Bank quitting the price-setting panel for gold and Bafin bearing down on the manipulators, Eric Sprott provides some more color on where the manipulation in the precious metals markets is underway (and when it will end)...
Submitted by Eric Sprott of Sprott Global Resource Investments ,
As we very well know, 2013 was a difficult but also puzzling year for precious metals investors. The price of gold, silver and their related equities declined by a significant amount while demand for physical bullion from emerging markets and their Central Banks was exceptionally strong.
A common argument that has been made to explain the precipitous decline of the price of precious metals in 2013 is of investors’ disenchantment with precious metals, which had been piling up in exchange traded products as a way for investors to gain exposure to the metals. Proponents of this theory point to the large declines in the total holdings of those ETFs as evidence of investors fleeing the precious metal trade. As shown in Figure 1, the price of both gold and silver suffered very significant declines throughout 2013. Therefore, if this explanation is correct, one would expect the total ETF holdings of both metals to be lower as well.
However, this is not the case. As shown in Figure 2 gold ETFs suffered large redemptions whereas silver ETFs saw their holdings remain more or less constant throughout the year, and this without any observable change in trading patterns in the two largest ETFs; GLD and SLV (Figure 3 shows the ratio of the trading values in the ETFs over time). If redemptions are a symptom of investors’ disenchantment with precious metals as an investment, shouldn’t silver have suffered the same fate as gold? Indeed it should have, but we think the reason silver ETFs were not raided like gold was that Central Banks do not have a silver supply problem, they have a gold problem. As we have argued before, the raiding of gold ETFs is bullish for gold because it reflects an imbalance in the physical market.1
Figure 1: Gold and Silver prices declined significantly in 2013
Figure 2: ETF Holdings - Troy oz (millions)
Source: Bloomberg, tickers ETSITOTL & ETFGTOTL
In this article, we further argue that the April raid on gold and gold ETFs almost backfired by creating a tsunami of buying in India and increased demand to unsustainable levels. In May 2013 alone, Indians imported 162 tonnes2 of gold in a market where monthly global mine production is about 182 tonnes. A continuation of this trend, coupled with strong buying from other Emerging Markets and their Central Banks, would have been overwhelming. But, the response was swift. We suspect that, at the behest of Western Central Banks, the Reserve Bank of India reacted by enacting, in incremental steps, restrictive measures to prevent gold imports (See Figure 4 for a timeline of the major changes made by the Indian Government).3
Figure 3: Traded Value - Ratio of SLV to GLD
Source: Bloomberg. Traded Value is calculated by taking the total trading volume for a quarter and multiplying it by the average price over that quarter. A ratio of 1 indicates that SLV traded as much, in $ terms, as GLD.
Figure 4: Efforts to Curb Indian Gold Imports
Source: Bloomberg, Economic Times 
Supply and Demand Imbalances: The Indian Effect
We have already discussed at length the supply and demand imbalance in an Open Letter to the World Gold Council, asking them to revise their methodology because it grossly understates the amount of demand coming from emerging markets.4 Our gold supply and demand table (Table 1) reflects the latest available data (2013 Q3 in most cases). World mine production, excluding Chinese and Russian production still stands at about 2,100 tonnes a year. Chinese net imports most likely exceeded 1,700 tonnes for 2013 (81% of world mine production) and demand from the rest of the world is rather stable.5
The overall picture has not changed much since our last article, with the exception of Indian imports. As of the second quarter of 2013, India had cumulative net gold imports of 551 tonnes, which annualizes to 1,102 tonnes.6 However, Q3 data shows net imports of only 31 tonnes (for a total of 582 tonnes YTD), which annualizes to 776 tonnes.
This incredible loss of momentum for “official” gold imports was the result of concerted actions by the Reserve Bank of India and the Indian Government. While the “official” justification for those restrictions is the large Indian current account deficit, this argument makes little sense. According to government officials, Indian’s taste for gold and the corresponding imports worsens the country’s trade balance, worsens its current account deficit and puts downward pressure on their currency, the Rupee.
But, without going into too many details, the classification of gold as a “good” in the trade balance is at best misleading. Since gold is more of an investment vehicle and is not “consumable” per se, it should instead be accounted for in the capital account of the balance of payments instead of the current account. Indeed, Switzerland, which is a large net importer of gold, reports its trade balance “without precious metals, precious stones and gems as well as art and antiques” to reflect fact that those are “investments” rather than consumption goods.9 In this case, why should India be any different and report their trade data excluding gold? To us, all the fuss about gold imports by the Indian Government is a red herring.
So, without the intervention in the Indian gold market, the shortage of gold would have wreaked havoc in the market, a situation that Western Central Banks could not tolerate.
Table 1: World Gold Supply and Demand 2013, in Tonnes
Sources: GFMS data comes from the WGC’s “Gold Demand Trends” publications for 2013 Q1, Q2 & Q3. Chinese mine supply comes from the China Gold Association and is up to October 2013, the annualized number is a Sprott estimate.8 Russian mine supply comes from the Union of Gold Producers and is up to 2013 Q3. Chinese data is taken from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department and covers the period Jan.-Nov. 2013 and is annualized to account for the missing month. Changes in Central Bank gold reserves are taken from the IMF’s International Financial Statistics, as published on the World Gold Council’s website for 2013 Q1, Q2 & Q3 and include all international organizations as well as all central banks. Net imports for Thailand, Turkey and India come from the UN Comtrade database and include gold coins, scrap, powder, jewellery and other items made of gold. The data is for 2013 Q1, Q2 & Q3. ETFs data comes from GFMS as well.
Conclusion and Outlook for 2014
As demonstrated in our Open Letter to the World Gold Council, there was a large supply-demand imbalance in 2013. The evidence presented here suggests that the decline in the price of gold in mid-2013 and the subsequent raid of gold ETFs (but not silver ETFs) was engineered by Western Central Banks to help solve their physical gold supply problem. However, the resulting increase in Indian gold demand exacerbated the problem. The solution was to restrict Indians from importing gold by all means possible in order to help the Western Central Banks regain control of the gold market.
However, the rate of drain in gold ETFs cannot continue forever; at the current pace of 930 tonnes/year, there are less than two years of gold left in ETFs. Moreover, Indians have proved highly creative at finding ways around import restrictions.10 Smuggling is on the rise and will most likely increase as smugglers become more sophisticated. Overall, we believe that interest in physical gold from emerging markets will remain a driving force.
Besides, mine production is unlikely to grow, as reflected by the significant decrease in capital expenditures expected for the major gold producers (Figure 5).
Accordingly, we believe that the manipulation of gold prices by central banks, as demonstrated by the above analysis, cannot continue in 2014. Therefore, we expect substantial increases in the price of precious metals as the true shortages become obvious.
Figure 5: Capital Expenditures ($mm) - XAU Index Members
Source: Bloomberg. Consensus analyst estimates are used for years 2013-2015.
P.S. Due to recent developments, we would also like to highlight some related media stories
Looking at the present financial situation from a historical, social perspective, indicates (based on history) that there will be a severe blowback from the QE program. But unlike other examples provided in the below analysis (such as WW2 spending) QE is nearly completely artificial. During WW2 spending was driven by manufacturing and war logistics. QE is not filtering down to the real economy, which indicates the blowback could be even worse.
"Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences."
- Robert Louis Stevenson
1. History is written as much by the unforeseen consequences of key events as by the events themselves. We prefer not to think in these terms, but history clearly reveals that the adverse consequences of well intended efforts often have a much more dramatic and lasting impact than the original efforts themselves.
2. In fact history suggests a law of adverse consequences where the more insistent and forceful the well intended effort, the more dramatic, powerful and harmful the blowback. In simple terms, attempts to force the world to improve have always ended badly.
3. This law of adverse consequences is a very common phenomena in medicine and is known by the euphemism of ‘side effects’. Adverse drug reactions to prescribed medications are the fourth leading killer in America, right after heart disease, cancer, and stroke. However this expression of the law of unintended consequences gets even less press than its expressions in human history. Neither is a popular topic.
4. One could easily write several volumes of history focused exclusively on the unwelcome repercussions from otherwise well-intended efforts. However as this is a subject that we would all rather avoid I suspect it would be a very difficult book to market.
5. Instead of a book I have opted for two pages of examples. The present situation strongly suggests that the high risk of unexpected blowback from current economic policies are much more deserving of our full attention than the past history of unwelcome consequences.
6. QE has already created what is arguably the most bullish market sentiment in history. And that extreme bullish sentiment has already driven most stock indices to new all time highs. So now would be a good time for some sober reflections on what could go wrong.
7. One sector that seems dangerously poised to go badly wrong are the junk and emerging bond markets. What will happen when Treasuries start yielding the same rates as previously issued junk debt? A massive exodus will happen. Junk bonds and emerging market debt will become a disaster area.
8. We already know how wildly successful Fed stimulus has been at creating speculative bubbles. Fed inflated bubbles that have already burst include a Dot-Com bubble, a credit bubble, a real estate bubble, and a commodity market bubble. The biggest bubble of them all is still inflating. That would be this stock market bubble.
9. There are now fewer banks than ever before in modern history. And the biggest banks are larger than ever before in history. The war against ‘too big to fail’ was lost before it began. Fewer, bigger banks means a more fragile financial system.
10. The worst of the bullish sentiment extremes of previous major stock market peaks have all returned. Analysts are positively gushing with ebullience. There is a competition to see who can come up with the highest targets for the various stock indices. No one sees any downside risk. All are confident that the Fed can and will fix anything. This is a situation ripe for adverse consequences. This is a market where blowback will be synonymous with blind-sided. No one will prepare for what they cannot see coming.
Comparing Costs: Major US Wars versus Quantitative Easing
The chart above suggests that the magnitude of the Federal Reserve economic stimulus program is only comparable to previous major war efforts. The dollar costs plotted here bears that out.
All of the war costs on the previous page were taken from one report dated 29 June 2010. That report was prepared by Stephen Dagget at the Congressional Research Service. I adjusted his numbers to 2013 dollars. You can find his report in PDF format on-line. However some further comments may be useful here.
The Civil War number combines the Northern or Union costs and the Southern or Confederate costs. In 2011 dollars the price of waging the war for the Union was $59.6 billion dollars and $20.1 billion for the Confederacy. I simply added these two numbers and then converted to 2013 dollars.
Post 9/11 Wars
Here I combined the costs of the Persian Gulf war, and Iraq war, and the war in Afghanistan into one category and then adjusted to 2013 dollars.
Sending a Man to the Moon
I thought it would be interesting to compare the costs of sending a man to the moon to the costs of QE. Most references to the cost of putting a man on the Moon only cite the Apollo project. But of course that is very wrong. Apollo arose from Gemini which grew out of Mercury. So for the true cost of sending a man to the Moon I included all costs for the Mercury missions, the Gemini program, the Lunar probes, the Apollo capsules, the Saturn V rockets, and the Lunar Modules. I relied on numbers gathered from NASA by the Artemis Project. I then converted those costs to 2013 dollars.
World War II versus Quantitative Easing
World War II transformed the United States from a sleepy agricultural enterprise into the world’s dominant economic super-power, and defeated both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan at the same time. It may seem entirely callous to calculate US Dollar costs for a war that claimed 15,000,000 battle deaths, 25,000,000 battle wounded, and civilian deaths that exceeded 45,000,000 but there is a point to this exercise.
The second world war defeated the strategy of geographical conquest through militarism as a national policy. Of course WW II had it’s own undesirable blowback as anything on this gigantic a scale would. However it seems pretty clear that replacing fascism and militarism with democracy was a step of progress for mankind.
WW II and QE
Since the 1950’s many have argued that it took World War II to pull the world out of the Great Depression. As a life-long student of the Great Depression Bernanke must be aware of this debate. In terms of the dollar amounts involved, World War Two is the only project comparable in size to QE. So it seems reasonable to assume that Bernanke’s goal here is to have QE fulfill the economic role of a World War Three; a war-free method of pulling the world out of the Great Recession. However human history suggests that the sheer magnitude and forced nature of the QE program all but ensures serious, unexpected and adverse consequences.
Learning from History
I am not bearish on the human race. When I read history I see things getting better. When I read history I find the slow replacement of brutality with compassion. When I read history I find the long term trend to be the replacement of centralized authority with local self-determination. And I find that every single effort to fight these long term trends has failed. And as history continues to unfold the efforts to fight these trends tends to fail more quickly, more dramatically, and more decisively.
There is an ancient Chinese proverb that states “Plan too far ahead and nature will seem to resist.” That aphorism definitely resonates with my experience and observations. If there is something inherent in the flow of time that unfolds an improvement in the human condition, then there is also something in the nature of things that resists the application of force, whether well intended or not.
If all of the above is an accurate accounting of things, then the key issue for policy makers is finding the fine line that separates supporting the natural flow of human evolution from attempting to force change. The former will help while the later will end badly. The question today has to do with Quantitative Easing. Is QE a gentle nurturing of economic evolution or is it the next doomed attempt to force things to get better? The QE program is so enormous, and relentless, and insistent, that I fear it is the later. And if QE is a huge attempt to force the economy to improve, than we had better start bracing for the blowback.
QE: the blowback to come
What kind of blowback should we prepare for? The lesson of history is that trying to force things to get better does not merely create unwelcome repercussions. It does not merely slow the pace of natural evolution. Attempts to enforce a certain outcome always appears to create the opposite effect. We do not find a law of adverse consequences. We find a law of opposite impacts.
Let us review the sample examples from the previous charts. Every effort to jam an ideology or a plan down the throat of the world only creates the opposite of the intended effect. I would maintain that this is one of the few lessons from history that can be relied on.
If the Federal Reserve is trying to force feed us prosperity then the inevitable blowback will be adversity. If the Fed is trying to compel the most dramatic economic recovery in history, then the blowback may well be the deepest depression in history. If the Fed is trying to enforce confidence and optimism then the blowback will be fear and despair. If the Fed is trying to force consumers to spend then the blowback will be a collapse in consumer confidence.
I sincerely hope that I am completely wrong here, that I am missing something, that there is a flaw in my logic. However until I can locate such a flaw I must trust the technical case for treating this Fed force-fed rally in the stock market as something that will end badly.
Here's how it plays out...
The very foundations of the modern financial system are being shaken; through scandals, market crisis, new regulation, social changes, and technology; all playing a part in permanently evolving how the global financial system operates. One of the most well known traditions in precious metals is the daily "Gold Fix," where the dealers would literally decide together what the daily price would be. Now, Deutsche Bank is exiting this process, among concern about manipulation charges and who knows what else is going on behind the scenes. But DB's departure is a milestone in the evolution into the new paradigm of global finance, whatever form it end up taking in the end.
Germany's blowback against gold manipulation is accelerating. Following yesterday's report that Bafin took a hard line against precious metals manipulation, after its president Eike Koenig said possible manipulation of precious metals "is worse than the Libor-rigging scandal", today the response has trickled down to Germany and Europe's largest bank, Deutsche Bank, which announced that it would withdraw from the appropriately named gold and silver price "fixing", as European regulators investigate suspected manipulation of precious metals prices by banks. As a reminder, Deutsche is one of five banks involved in the twice-daily gold fix for global price setting and said it was quitting the process after withdrawing from the bulk of its commodities business. The scramble away from gold fixing was certainly assisted by the recent first (of many) manipulation expose in the legacy media, when Bloomberg revealed "How Gold Price Is Manipulated During The "London Fix." And sure enough, with Germany already very sensitive to the topic of its gold repatriation, and specifically why it is taking so long, it was only a matter of time before any German involvement in gold manipulation escalated to the very top.
"Deutsche Bank is withdrawing its participation in the gold and silver benchmark setting process following the significant scaling back of our commodities business. We remain fully committed to our precious metals business," it said in a statement.
In mid-December, German banking regulator Bafin demanded documents from Deutsche Bank under an inquiry into suspected manipulation of benchmark gold and silver prices by banks, the Financial Times reported, citing sources.
Bafin declined to comment on Friday, but its President Elke Koenig said the previous day that it was understandable that the topic was attracting widespread concern.
"These allegations (about currencies and precious metals) are particularly serious, because such reference values are based - unlike LIBOR and Euribor - typically on real transactions in liquid markets and not on estimates of the banks," she said in a speech
Needless to say, manipulation of the gold market would not be exactly novel to a bank which has also been named in cases related to the sub-prime crisis, credit default swaps, mortgages, tax evasion and a decade-old lawsuit suit brought by the heirs of late media mogul Leo Kirch, who accuse the bank of undermining the business.
Reuters also reports that Deutsche is now actively marketing its gold and silver fixing seats to another LBMA member, however now that the cat is out of the bag on the gold fixing manipulation scheme (the first of many), it is likely that others will seek to follow in Deutsche's footsteps and seek to put as much distance between themselves and the wood-paneled room once located in the Rothschild office on St. Swithin's Lane in London.
We wonder which of these five gentlemen is from Deutsche?
So if everyone exits the London fixing market, what happens then?
"It wouldn't surprise me if the other banks were looking at pulling out as well. Why would they want the aggravation?" said the source, who declined to be named.
"The more worrying point is that, if you don't have the fixing, what do you have? There's a lot of contractual business done on the gold fix, and if you've got no basis for where the price is, someone is going to lose out."
Well considering that the fixing process over the years was manipulation pure and simple, those who will lose out are the... manipulators? it would seem rather logical. And speaking of manipulation, if indeed Germany is so keen on breaking the manipulators' back, perhaps it can demand that the pace of its gold returns from the NY Fed and Paris accelerates. It may be surprised at what it finds.
GIH: As we slip into a global crisis, paradigm shift, climate change, social upheaval, and a myriad of other unprecedented circumstances, many simply do not have the time or motivation to even follow what's going on. This is both tragic and frightening, because society will need an intelligent mass of productive human capital to rebuild from the ashes after the bubble bursts.
Who Has the Time and Motivation to Comprehend the Mess We're In? Almost Nobody
When it comes time to assess our grasp of the dynamics of this unprecedented era, how do you reckon historians will grade our collective political "leadership," intelligentsia, central state, corporate leadership and the "common man/woman" citizen? Did we rise to the occasion or did we falter, not in acting to counter the dissolution of the Status Quo, but in simply making a concerted effort to understand the tangled web of lies, corruption, perverse incentives, unintended consequences, simplistic (and utterly misguided) ideologies, not to mention the real-world limits of a supposedly limitless world, that have become the key dynamics of this era?I suspect future historians (presuming the funding of such scholarly assessments survives) will grade all categories either F or D-. The reasons are not difficult to discern, and it behooves us to understand why we are collectively so ill-prepared to understand our era, much less fix what's broken before the whole over-ripe mess collapses in a heap.1. Intellectual laziness. Very few people are willing to work hard enough to figure things out on their own. It's so much easier to join Paul Krugman dancing around the fire of the Keynesian Cargo Cult, chanting "aggregate demand! Humba-Humba!" while waving dead chickens than ditch reductionist, naive ideologies and actually work through an independent analysis.2. Independent thinking is an excellent way to get fired, demoted or sent to Siberia. Though America claims to value independent thinking, this is just another pernicious lie: what America values is the ability to mask failing conventional ideas and systems with a thin gloss of "fresh thinking."
In other words, what the American state and corporatocracy value is the appearance of independent thinking, not the real thing. Since the real thing will get you fired, everyone who works for government or Corporate America masters the fine arts of producing simulacra, legerdemain and illusion. This only further obscures the real dynamics, making legitimate analysis that much more difficult.
3. Relatively few have any incentive to question authority, the state or the corporatocracy. Humans excel at figuring out which side of the bread is buttered, and who's lathering on the butter: self-interest is the ultimate human survival trait (we cooperate because it serves our self-interest to do so).
While we cannot hold the pursuit of self-interest against any individual--after all, who among us truly acts selflessly when push comes to shove?--we can monitor the monumentally negative consequences of self-interest and complicity on the systems and Commons we share.
When roughly half of all households are drawing direct cash/benefits from the central state, how many of those people are interested in doing anything that might put their place at the feeding trough at risk? Sure, people will grouse about this or that (usually related to the conviction that they deserve more or have been cheated out of "their fair share"), but as long as the government payments, direct deposits and benefits keep coming, what possible motivation is there for the recipients to devote energy to investigating the potential collapse of the gravy train?
Corporate America is no different. The store may be devoid of customers, but the employees will strive to look busy to keep the paychecks coming until the inevitable lay-off/implosion occurs. How many Corporate America employees will critique their way out of a paycheck? In an environment this difficult for job-seekers, you'd be nuts to bother figuring out why your division is failing, knowing as you do that the truth will result in the "termination with extreme prejudice" of the naive fools who presented the truth as if it would be welcome
Does anyone seriously imagine that any employee of a bloated bureaucracy will ever voluntarily challenge the squandering of revenues when that might cost them their own paycheck, bonus, contract for their brother-in-law, etc.? A few protected people (professors with tenure, for example) can be "brave," but their "bravery" is cheap: their protestations cannot trigger termination with extreme prejudice, so the gesture of resistance is just that, a gesture.
4. Those relative few who might have a real motivation to undertake independent analysis have little time to pursue this noble project. They are working absurd hours and enduring absurd commutes. Between getting the bundles of diapers into the elevator and planning what to cook for dinner, there is precious little time or energy left for figuring out the mess we're in. Just getting to a second or third job can suck up a significant amount of time, money amd energy.
And so the busy employee/sole-proprietor/contract worker listens to NPR or some talk radio program for a few minutes, reinforcing their ideology of choice, and turns on the "news" (laughably bad propaganda churned up with "if it bleeds, it leads") as background noise and spends whatever personal time they have on Roku, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. seeking distraction or solace from the daily workload.
In a strange irony, there are plenty of citizens who have plenty of time (recall that Americans manage to watch 6-8 hours of TV a day), but their marginalized status and dependence on the state drains them of motivation to do anything but seek amusement and distraction.
If we don't understand the problem or the dynamics that are generating the problem, it is impossible to reach a solution or practical plan of action. In other words, the four points above doom us just as surely as the dynamics of insolvency, corruption, debt servitude, Tyranny of the Majority, etc. etc. etc.
Choose your metaphor of choice, but rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic has a nice ironic texture in an election year, when the "news" will be focusing on rearranging the political deck chairs on the first class deck--at least when there's no celebrity ruckus or "if it bleeds, it leads" to crowd out what passes for "hard news" in a regime dedicated to the distractions of bread and circuses.